Well, we’re still married. And we shared a double kayak.

Miracles will never cease, as we’re not divorced.

Oh, my god. I’d sworn never, ever to share a kayak with Beloved again, but along comes the opportunity on the River Thames. But only, ONLY in a double.

Who can resist? No, seriously, I can do this! For a mere £65 each we were taken on “a three hour tour of the best of London”. It’s not until you’re on the water they mention it’s eleven miles. I was expecting it to be long, but not nearly a half-marathon. And it’s not three and a half hours hours. It’s actually four and a half.

But it wasn’t as hard as all that. We were going with the tide (yes, the Thames is tidal… and god bless us, the moon was full so the tidal difference was 7 meters, which is just under 23 feet for Americans, Liberians and Myanmarese…) so part of the time we could just drift forward.

Map of London and surround
Our 11 mile course, from Greenwich (as in Greenwich Mean Time) to Battersea (as in the Dogs’ Home)

The main guide was Irish as Paddy’s pig (“Tairn leeeeft, ghels! Tairn leeeeft!) and liked to joke around. At the outset, I asked the locale of the ladies loo and he told me to “paddle owt tehn mee-ers and there ye go… but noht on me boht, eh?”

Who ever heard of a kayak with a rudder? (Apparently, yes, they do exist, but I wasn’t familiar with the idea…) I was told I’d be in the rear seat, so I had to work the rudder. Left foot pushed down turns the boat (that was no kayak, I’m telling you…) left, right turns right.

There were no subtleties in turning, so I was constantly moving my feet to try to steer in a straight line. But, y’know, just pushing the damn pedal doesn’t make it turn… you gotta actually propel the craft forward.

Beloved: honey, turn left.

Me: I am turning left!

Beloved: okay! Okay! Just… I can’t tell.

Me: well if you paddled you’d see we’re turning left!

Beloved: I am paddling!

Me: okay, one… two… one… two…

Beloved: um… which side is one?

Tour guide: Ghels! Tairn leeeeft! Tairn LEEEEFT!


And what water it is. Yes, I know we’ve had nigh on a century and a half since the Victorians realized a sewer system was the way to go (thank you, thank you) but it still smelled of porcine excrement.

Beloved I think still has a bit of a schnozzy impairment due to her recent bout with plague as she couldn’t smell anything. Blech. It was really ponko, brown with mud, silt and god knows what else, and just wiffy.

Getting in the kayak also involved mud. Really fine mud, like the kind you’d use for a face mask… except you would NOT want this on your face. Preferences aside, I nonetheless wound up with a fair amount spread across my feet, legs, water bottle (UGH) and where ever else. I was sitting in Thames water by the end of it, not for want of attempting to avoid it.

We’d decided NOT to lug our own life jackets over, although we were tempted – we have women’s ones (there’s cutouts for your boobs, SERIOUSLY more comfortable, I cannot recommend them strongly enough. “Standard” jackets are designed for men and women who are… modestly endowed. Thems of us of a more generous size are at a serious disadvantage… the vests wind up around your chin and your bazoombas tend to be smushed all the way under your arms.).

So first I was put into the straight jacket from hell, then the guide approaches with what Beloved referred to as a “skirt” and instructed me to lift my arms.

I did so as best I could while encased in this unyielding outfit.

He got it to my armpits and… uh… struggled a bit.

Me: Oi! Mind me boobs! (My accent comes out when I’m in England, can’t help it)

Guide (not the Irishman): Pahdon?

Me: Ye gonna slice me boobs off!

Guide, bright red: Uh… you need to have this on. Here, let me just…

Me: OWWWW! (At this point, I was messing with him)

Guide: I AM sorry, madam.

Poor bugger. We managed to get this rubbery wetsuit kind of gasket that attaches to the kayak with you sticking out the top. It snuggles your ribcage like a freakin’ underfed python who thinks he’s just received manna from heaven in the form of a full-busted, plump, trapped boater. Of course, this further forced the life jacket and my feminine appendages further skyward. At this point, I had no evidence of a neck.

They got Beloved in, and off we went. I was clutching the two paddles and still attempting to breathe as they shot us into the water. Handed a paddle over to the front of the kayak and tried to get myself oriented… as the Irish guide said “Oi! Ya not howlding ye paddles properly! Turrrn ‘em rownd!”

Yeah, yeah, give me a second, I’m sitting here getting all manner of my anatomy shoved out of this contraption like a can of squirty cheese.

Squished in, looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Off we went. It was pretty easy going at first, until we got to the tourist boats. Holy moly. They have “Rocket Boats” which also give tours… at high speed. Then there’s the Uber Boat, which actually just stops at various points (twice the price of the underground), rubbish barges (exactly what you think they are… they take the capital’s trash away, much cheaper than trucking it out), and all manner of other pleasure and commerce river traffic.

Their wakes were compounded by the Victorian alterations to the river. The Yanks fighting a civil war, the Brits were working on civility. In 1865, London officially opened the sewage system, which involved encasing the embankments along side the river… so it narrowed it. As a result, in a lot of areas, there are high walls so the waves smack against the sides and boomerang back at you. It’s only because these double kayaks are the size of aircraft carriers that they don’t capsize in these waters.

A brief respite from the choppy waters going past the Houses of Parliment

However, it does not prevent you from getting the occasional taste of the most appalling fluid.

On the other hand, the views were spectacular. We actually floated alongside Traitor’s Gate… god, that would’ve been so freaking terrifying, being taken in there, knowing you likely weren’t going to emerge.

Right next to Traitor’s Gate

We weren’t allowed to have cameras on the tour, but the guide took lots of pictures for us (they’re concerned you’ll focus too much on picture taking and not enough on steering/paddling, which was true – one person on the tour flouted that rule and broke his rudder – as well as banging into most of us.)

It was great.

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